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Free agent signees to remember
SNR’s Mike Prisuta, Dale Lolley and Matt Williamson each give their take on the Steelers top free agent signees in team history
Mar 14, 2022

With free agency set to open at 4 p.m. on March 16, Steelers Nation Radio's Mike Prisuta, Dale Lolley and Matt Williamson provide their opinions on the greatest free agent signees in team history.

Matt's take ...

5. Kimo von Oelhoffen, DE/NT, 2000-2005: After playing against von Oelhoffen from 1994 to 1999, the Steelers decided that was enough of that and wanted to play with von Oelhoffen instead of against him. Not a traditional 3-4 nose tackle, one of the best things von Oelhoffen brought to the table for Pittsburgh in their odd front was his ability to play the nose or defensive end. At end, he was a rock against the run and often demanded double teams. And on the nose, von Oelhoffen brought more pass-rush than what was typical for that position. He had eight sacks in 2003. During his stint in Pittsburgh between 2000 and 2005, von Oelhoffen not only helped the Steelers win a Super Bowl, but he also missed just one game due to injury.

4. Jeff Hartings, C, 2001-2006: Coming out of Penn State, the Lions selected Hartings with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 1996 draft. Hartings played guard for Detroit for five seasons, but when he hit free agency in 2001, the Steelers saw their answer at center, a position that had an incredible tradition and history in Pittsburgh before Hartings arrived. While Hartings might not have been at the Mike Webster or Dermontti Dawson level as an all-time great pivotman, he was an exceptional player for Pittsburgh and one of the best centers in the league in the black and gold. He didn't miss a game between 2003 and 2005. A Pro Bowler in 2004 and 2005, Hartings was a rock of stability for the Steelers for six seasons before retiring after the 2006 season. He was Ben Roethlisberger's first center and certainly helped the young quarterback acclimate to the NFL.

3. Joe Haden, CB, 2017-(Present or 2021): For whatever reason, the rebuilding Browns released Haden in last August of 2017. Pittsburgh pounced on the former seventh overall pick and Haden has been a fixture for the Steelers ever since. Not only an excellent outside cornerback, but Haden also immediately took on a huge leadership role with the Steelers. As was was the case with Farrior, Haden's value came much more than what he brought on game days. Over the past five years, Haden has appeared in 58 regular season games, picking off 10 passes in the process.

2. James Farrior, ILB, 2002-2011: There is a very strong case that Farrior should be first on this list. While he is unlikely to join Greene in the Hall of Fame, Farrior was a tremendous football player for Pittsburgh and a rare leader that held every member of the team accountable in every regard. Those type of players and people are rare, and Pittsburgh recognized this when the Jets allowed Farrior, who New York drafted eighth overall in 1997, to test the free agent waters after the 2001 season. Farrior played for the Steelers for the next 10 seasons as a fixture on many outstanding defenses. He only missed six games while with Pittsburgh. An inside linebacker in the Steelers 3-4 scheme, Farrior excelled on the second level, but he also was a very good pass-rusher and sacked the quarterback 29 times in his final eight seasons with Pittsburgh. Farrior was at his best when it mattered most.

1. Kevin Greene, OLB, 1993-1995: The late great Greene was a perfect fit as an edge pass-rusher with the Steelers from 1993 through 1995. It was only three years, but Greene was at his very best in Pittsburgh's scheme that allowed him to attack without relent, especially on throwing downs. During the three seasons with the team, Greene not only led the NFL in sacks in 1994, but he accumulated 33.5 sacks in those three fantastic seasons. He went to the Pro Bowl every year he played with the Steelers. Greene, who had 72.5 career sacks before joining Pittsburgh, played in the NFL for 15 years but decided that he wanted presented his Hall of Fame ring from the Steelers. Unfortunately, Greene passed away in December of 2020. His impact on the Steelers and the entire sport is still felt today.

Dale's take ...

5. Dewayne Washington, CB, 1998-2003: Washington gets the nod here barely over Ryan Clark by a nose due to his productivity. He had 19 interceptions in six seasons to 12 for Clark in eight years, scoring a touchdown, as well. Washington came to the Steelers from the Vikings in 1998 and was a starter in all six of his seasons, including helping the team to an AFC Championship in 2001.

4. Kimo von Oelhoffen, DE/NT, 2000-2005: Von Oelhoffen came to the Steelers after six seasons with the Bengals, where he caught the eye of Dermontti Dawson as someone who was tough to move out of the trenches. Von Oelhoffen started on the nose in 2000, then moved over to end when Casey Hampton was added. He was instrumental in the team's Super Bowl run in 2005 and finished with 20.5 sacks in six seasons with the Steelers, winning a Super Bowl and playing in three AFC Championships.

3. Jeff Hartings, C, 2001-2006: Hartings had been a guard with the Lions, but Kevin Colbert, who had been with him in Detroit, had the foresight to know he could move over to center. The replacement for Dawson, Hartings appeared in 90 games with the Steelers, starting 89, and helping the team to three AFC Championship games and a Super Bowl win. He also was All-Pro twice and to the Pro Bowl two other times. 

2. Kevin Greene, OLB, 1993-1995: The Steelers' first "big-name" free agent, Greene brought a presence to the team's defense in 1993 after coming over from the Rams. In just three seasons with the Steelers, he helped them to two AFC Championships and one Super Bowl appearance, recording 35.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. Greene led the NFL in sacks in 1994 with 14, the last Steelers player to do so before T.J. Watt did it in back-to-back years in 2020 and 2021. 

1. James Farrior, ILB, 2002-2011: Maybe one of the top free agent signings for any team, Farrior became the heart-and-soul of teams that appeared in three Super Bowls, winning two, and making four AFC Championship appearances. He made 154 starts in 10 seasons, recording 1,085 tackles, 30 sacks and eight interceptions. In 2004, Farrior finished second in NFL Defensive Player of the year voting and was All-Pro twice and made the Pro Bowl twice in an era where Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and others dominated the All-Pro voting.

Mike's take ...

5. Kimo von Oelhoffen, DE/NT, 2000-2005: The Steelers signed von Oelhoffen in 2000 after he'd spent six seasons in Cincinnati. He spent the next six in Pittsburgh and wound up starting 94 of the 95 regular-season games in which he appeared for the Steelers. He also started all 10 playoff games he played during his Steelers' tenure, including the 21-10 victory over Seattle in Super Bowl XL. A defensive lineman who did much of the dirty work up front, von Oelhoffen also contributed a personality and a presence to defenses that helped lead the way to three AFC Championship Game appearances and the winning of the franchise's fifth Vince Lombardi trophy.

4. Ryan Clark, DB, 2006-2013: Clark arrived in 2006 after four unremarkable NFL seasons (two with the New York Football Giants and two with the Redskins) and found a home next to Troy Polamalu at safety. Clark stayed long enough to play in 111 regular-season games with the Steelers and start 109 of them. He also started in eight playoff games, including two Super Bowls (a win over Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII and a loss to Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV). Clark was a fearless hitter, a consumate competitor and the perfect complement to Polamalu.

3. Jeff Hartings, C, 2001-2006: A former first-round pick by Detroit in 1996, Hartings came to the Steelers in 2001 after five seasons with the Lions. He played in three AFC Championship Games and Super Bowl XL. Hartings started 89 of the 90 regular-season games he played for the Steelers and all 10 of his postseason appearances, made the Pro Bowl in 2004 and 2005 and was a First-Team Associated Press All-Pro in 2005. Hartings played long enough and well enough for the Steelers to earn a place in the franchise's rich tradition at center.

2. Kevin Greene, OLB, 1993-1995: Greene played only three of his 15 NFL seasons with the Steelers (1993-95), but he piled up 35.5 sacks in those three campaigns while helping to comprise a fearsome duo at outside linebacker with Greg Lloyd. Greene was First-Team Associated Press All-Pro in 1994 and made the Pro Bowl in 1994 and 1995. He started all 48 regular-season games he played for the Steelers and all six of his playoff games (including a loss to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX) on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1. James Farrior, ILB, 2002-2011: Farrior was originally an eighth-overall selection of the Jets in 1997 who came to the Steelers in 2002, took up residence at inside linebacker and lasted a decade. He was personable, he was productive, he was a leader and he was a centerpiece on championship defenses. Farrior was also remarkably dependable and consistent (154 career regular-season games played, 154 starts). He earned First-Team Associated Press All-Pro honors in 2004 and finished as the runner-up AP Defensive Player of the Year.

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